Research Interests

Caspian Region; Authoritarian Regimes; Post-Soviet Politics

Background & Qualification

Robert Fredrick Chestnutt has a BSc from the Dublin Institute of Technology, a Masters in International Relations from Dublin City University and an MLitt in Middle East & Central Asian Security Studies from the University of St. Andrews. Robert’s doctoral research is focused on the elections in the Caspian region, on the country set of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. In the past, Robert spent a number of months conducting fieldwork in Central Asia in 2013 examining elite networks and a set of criminalised sports clubs that act as private security to support their power base. In addition, Robert has spent the past number of years working for a London-based emerging markets consultancy firm, contributing to thematic reports and compiling region specific briefs principally focusing on the post-Soviet region and sub-Saharan Africa. Content has included tracking tech start-ups in sub-Saharan Africa, mining trends in the emerging markets, renewable energy developments in east-Africa and Latin America, agri-business, NOC and IOC trends in the regions.

Doctoral Research

Authoritarian Elections in the Caspian region

Research Overview

By the year 2000, 62% of the Authoritarian regimes in the world were holding multiparty elections. But, Elections are roundly accepted as foundations of a democracy. They are intended to be the instruments by which citizens hold politicians accountable for the quality of governance, and represent an opportunity to remove inept or unpopular representatives.

This phenomenon of elections being employed to entrench power is by no means an epiphany. In their recent yearly ‘Freedom in the World’ survey, Freedom House reported how democracy has suffered eight consistent years of global decline [Freedom House, Freedom the world 2014]. This downward shift represents the longest continuous decline in political freedoms since the organisation started measuring democratic trends over four decades ago. Conversely, it coincides with an increase in the amount of countries holding elections.

This paradox is of sufficient interest to merit deeper and continued scrutiny, and there should be a lot more to unpack. Especially, the question that if elections do not determine the leaders and policies, what function do they perform? Furthermore, how do the people feel about it?